Today is the birthday of Alfred Hitchcock, who is if not the greatest director of all time, easily in the top 5, and one of the most influential filmmakers of all time. The way he crafted mystery, always having you looking in one direction while really keeping the secret hidden in another. A lot of directors since then have obviously been heavily influenced by his work. M Night Shyamalan seems to immediately come to mind, but even Joel Edgerton, whose recent film The Gift, has critics calling it “Hitchcockian”. That’s right, there’s actually a whole genre based around mysteries that feel a certain way.
But he’s not always into mystery and suspense. One of his greatest films, To Catch A Thief, is a pretty straightforward caper in the way that films today are still made (Oceans Eleven, The Thomas Crown Affair, The Score). But, his greatest films probably do have an element of mystery to them. I normally do Actor Profiles, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to do one for one of my favorite directors. The first film I remember seeing of his was actually Rear Window, which quickly got me into Psycho, The Birds, and North By Northwest. I ended up watching a bunch of his other films when I had an Alfred Hitchcock class in film school.
Much like Pringles, you can’t just have one. Vertigo is an absolutely perfect film in every way. James Stewart and Kim Novak both give exceptional performances, and Hitchcock keeps you guessing the whole way. Not just that, but the film is beautifully shot. Vertigo is frequently studied simply because of all the great shots that Hitchcock got during the film. Even if there was no sound, Vertigo would still be a great film to watch. Critics agree with me. 98% on Rotten Tomatoes (what critic actually had the balls to score this film low?) But, I can’t choose just one. Psycho is everything. I made the mistake of watching this when I was like 10, and showers were definitely a problem for me for a few weeks after. If you’re watching Bates Motel, and you haven’t seen Psycho, fuck you. Seriously. Rear Window is also a perfect film in every way, and North By Northwest used to be my favorite Hitchcock film until film school made me watch it five times, after I had already seen it once or twice. Now it becomes the “overplayed” Hitchcock film. I won’t need to see it for a few years.
MOST ICONIC FILM
Probably Psycho, though one could argue that the image they used for Alfred Hitchcock Presents is pretty damn iconic.
MOST UNDERRATED FILM
Everyone knows his later works, but he has a lot of really good earlier works too. I really enjoyed The Lady Vanishes, even though it was made way back in the day. 1938. Also, To Catch A Thief is worth a glance, just so you can see Hitchcock out of his murder mystery element.
BEST FILM I HAVEN’T SEEN, BUT HEARD WAS GREAT
I actually haven’t seen either Dial M For Murder or Rebecca. I know I have to. I know they’re both classics. I’m sorry.
I know it’s a classic, but I didn’t really enjoy The 39 Steps as much as his other works. Worst is not a word I would use to describe a film I’d probably give a B- to, but his filmography is just so strong, that I’ll pick this average work for this. Really, it’s just the only film I wouldn’t recommend on the list below.
Films I’ve Seen:
1) The Lodger (1927)
2) The 39 Steps (1935)
3) The Lady Vanishes (1938)
4) Shadow Of A Doubt (1943)
5) Spellbound (1945)
6) Notorious (1946)
7) Rope (1948)
8) Strangers On A Train (1951)
9) Rear Window (1954)
10) Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955-1961)
11) To Catch A Thief (1955)
12) The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
13) The Wrong Man (1956)
14) Vertigo (1958)
15) North By Northwest (1959)
16) Psycho (1960)
17) The Birds (1963)